Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Patrick Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Todd Thompson, Ph.D.


This study of selected works by Appalachian writers Ron Rash and Fred Chappell creates a chronological narrative that focuses on the relationship between the Othering of Appalachian peoples and the ensuing exploitation of natural resources in southern Appalachia throughout the twentieth century. In this dissertation I argue that through these works, Rash and Chappell identify, address, and resist efforts to both colonize and exploit Appalachian residents and the natural resources that enrich the region. I historicize these texts within the rich history of Appalachia, which I contend qualifies as a settler colony, and analyze the role of the creation of damaging and inaccurate caricatures that continue to dominate our cultural consciousness of the region in order to justify the Othering of the Appalachian peoples and facilitate the irresponsible and unethical exploitation of its natural resources. The application of postcolonial ecocriticism reveals both Rash and Chappell as archivists and activists, and I demonstrate that their writings both preserve a disappearing (or, in some cases, obliterated) culture while they present alternative, fictional futures. In my discussion of Rash's "Serena", I address the eponymous Serena as a great colonizing force, facilitating the Othering of local residents while obliterating the natural resources (namely, timber) that sustain their livelihoods and culture in the early decades of the twentieth century. Set in the mid-twentieth century and later, Fred Chappell's inclusion of magical realism in his works "I Am One of You Forever"; "Look Back, All the Green Valley"; and "Midquest" provides an imagined alternative to the devastation wrought by the fictional counterpart to Champion Paper, International. I examine how Chappell's techniques also allude to the political and activist roles of magical realism. Continuing the chronological narrative based on environmental events is my analysis of Rash's "One Foot in Eden", in which I argue that the division of character narratives mirrors a social hierarchy enforced by the geography of the Jocassee Valley. Lastly, Rash's "Saints at the River" embodies the continuing conflict between settler colonies and the imposition of outsiders.